Surviving VS. Thriving as a Mommy Missionary

I remember when Sam stopped taking his afternoon nap. He was only three, but it was clear that fighting for over an hour to get him to take a short nap—and then his inability to fall asleep at bedtime because he wasn’t tired—was no longer working. We switched him to a “quiet play time” in his room instead. I remember thinking, “How will I survive without naptime? This was my only time to meet with a student or get my Bible study prep done!”

Throughout the years of parenting babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, I often felt that I was running on a hamster wheel, trying to keep up and simply survive my days of parenting and ministry. But I didn’t want to just survive; I wanted to thrive! I wanted to be like the righteous in Psalm 92:12-13, who “flourish like a palm tree…planted in the house of the Lord.”
Here are 4 things I learned along the way that helped me thrive:
Redefine what “thriving” looks like. My times with Jesus were especially challenging for me when I continued to look back longingly at how things used to be. Yes, I was grateful to have had long mornings with Jesus, lingering over the Word and a cup of coffee. I missed those countless hours in coffee shops with college women who actually listened to what I had to say without throwing a temper tantrum! But being a mommy missionary is a new season. And it’s a beautiful one! I was disappointed when I kept hoping for a two-hour time with the Lord each morning. But I could pray throughout the day and tell God how I was feeling, and listen for His still, small voice. I could meditate on Scripture I had already memorized. I asked God to give me one verse to cling to for a month or two. God’s Word is living and active. He sustained me. And with a little careful planning, I could still meet that Bible study leader I was discipling at the coffee shop.
Don’t let comparison steal my joy. No matter where I turn—in real life or on social media—there is always another staff mom who looks like she has it more together than I do. (After all, our facebook posts and newsletters rarely highlight what we are NOT doing!) Weighing my life and ministry capacity against what I imagine hers to be like only leads me down the bitter road of discontentment. And that never leads to feelings of thriving! Instead, I choose to thank God for how He has gifted and designed me (and her). And then I choose to see the beauty in the life (and little lives) God has given me. It’s important for me to spend time thanking God for the way He has called me to engage with women todayeven though it looks a lot different than before I became a missionary mommy.
Don’t try to do it all! The season of raising little ones was not the time to reorganize my garage, meet with every woman leader on campus, or start scrapbooking every photo since college. It was full of mundane tasks that had to be done in order for everyone in my family to survive. I needed to feed babies, change diapers, buy groceries, cook meals, do laundry, and try to keep the dust on the end tables under an inch thick! Trying to do too much (either at home or on campus) led to frustration and exhaustion. And I didn’t feel like I was thriving! It was vital to take intentional time to talk with my husband about what my best contribution with The Navs could look like each semester. And then we worked together to make that happen.
Take care of myself. I’ve learned that taking care of my physical body allows me more space to focus on Jesus and what He wants to say to me. In the midst of taking care of everyone else, I need to take care of myself too. This means making healthy eating choices, going for walks with the kids so I can get some exercise, and prioritizing naps (when possible) and bedtime for myself. When my physical body is taken care of, I have a much stronger sense that I am thriving and not just surviving each day as it comes. An easy way to incorporate this into my ministry is to prayer walk (or jog or take an exercise class) with a gal I am discipling. Whether it’s early in the morning with just the two of us, or whether I bring the kids and we have lots of stops and starts along the way, it is time well spent!

A book that really encouraged me in this area is Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine. I pray that each of you will have a new or renewed sense from the Lord that you can thrive in the midst of these beautiful mommy missionary years.
Melissa and her husband Ben have been on staff with the Navs for 14 years, and married for 17. They have two children in elementary school. The Nugents recently moved to Kansas City after 9 years in Florida, and are looking forward to introducing their kids to sledding and snow days!

If you have any comments or questions about this post please email Melissa at:

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